Jill Chambers Making Waves

And it’s a good thing.

Georgia lawmaker says she wants to make it a felony to deliberately violate the state’s Open Records Act.

State Rep. Jill Chambers, R-Atlanta, said she plans to introduce a bill to make the law easier to understand and possibly eliminate some exemptions.

Chambers said she would make

14 comments

  1. Erick –??
    I’m pretty sure they have always had to be in writing. I’ve made them and answered them -always in writing. I would love to be able to just call someone and say “abracadabra, open records” and have them sent…

    Any reporter types who read this blog have an answer? -Not that the 69th most powerful conservative in the world could possibly be wrong, of course.

  2. Ben Marshall says:

    Open Record request do not have to be in writing. You can call, show up in person, e-mail, write a letter, however you want. Writing provides a better trail for when the gov’t responds to your requests, or doesn’t.

  3. Ben Marshall says:

    The problem is, bureaucrats ignore them if they’re not in writing, and still often do when they are in writing, because they don’t care about the penalties. I think clearing up the code section is a good thing, but increasing penalties for requiring everything written is a bum deal for the public.

  4. Bobby Kahn says:

    Good luck to Rep. Chambers. Gov. Barnes undertook reforms to the Open Records and Open Meetings Acts in 1999. Did pretty well — had one dissenting vote in the House. Rep. Glenn Richardson.

    The biggest obstacle to reform at the state level comes in the bureaucracy. There are two ways to enforce open government laws — the Governor can set an example and force the bureaucracy to comply, or strengthening the law. Since we have a Governor committed to secrecy, the changing the law is the best avenue for reform.

  5. BubbaRich says:

    How would this relate to the Open Meetings act? I ask because we were joking that, if Messrs. Hart, Spangler, and Lowe intentionally had an illegal meeting to fire Doraville Police Chief King, it would have only cost them $100. Of course, it cost one of them his job, and maybe the other two in the next month or two.

  6. Bill Simon says:

    The law used to state that any government employee not adhering to the open records request law shall be subject to a $100 fine.

    However, I notice that when the state went to Lexis-Nexis to host the OCGA, that section mysteriously disappeared.

  7. jillchambers says:

    The purpose of this project is to make this statute crystal clear so that anyone who reads it can understand the law. Of all the laws in Georgia, the Sunshine laws should be easy to understand.

    Mike H, written requests in writing will certainly be a topic of debate for this proposed legislation.

    So will the debate over secrecy versus privacy. Do PP readers have an opinion on the definitions of “secrecy” and “privacy?” Should our social security numbers and the credit card info collected by government be subject to open records (also meaning that marketers could file a request to learn your personal travel patterns on MARTA and toll roads, as well as your personal credit card purchasing patterns for fare cards and toll passes)? With the rise of identity theft, what is the liability for persons receiving such records if these records become lost or stolen from the recipient? Will we see the same people who advocate for credit freezes also demand that credit card records be available through open records requests? How can the press verify info without access to these records – should a special exemption to the exemption be made for the press? Are bloggers considered “press?”

    Ben’s assesment on weak penalties is exactly why this statute needs to be strengthened.

    Bobby K., thanks for the encouragement!

    Bubba & Bill, here is the current statute on penalties for violating the open meetings act:

  8. jm says:

    Government must redact some information from requests, absolutely: SSN’s for sure, and HIPAA should supersede any open records act request. But the government is our government. The records are our records. If they are not sensitive they should be automatically available for free (library, or a copy machine in the locale for the public to use) . Sensitive records that need parsing, redacting, copying, etc. should be offered at a fee. I’m glad Rep. Chambers is putting through this bill, but the question for an ordinary citizen is, who do I go to to get the fine imposed (the police? a court?) What if the office whose records I’m looking for is where I’m supposed to file my complaint, a perfect internal conflict of interest?

  9. Chris says:

    When I was doing HIPPA work, the term they used for protected information was “Personally Identifiable Information”

    Data on MARTA travel (or GA Cruise Card records) should be available – with the name replaced by a unique ID. So academics can run analysis on the data, but they don’t know _who_ it was who went down 400 with their mistress at 4am.

    AFAIK, I’m not currently able to request Erick’s GA Income Tax return. Nor should I be able.

  10. AubieTurtle says:

    There is a very attractive blond woman who arrives at the Civic Center MARTA station every morning around the same time I do. She wasn’t at the station two days last week. If travel data was made public, I could easily figure out her unique id based on the time she normally scans in through the Breeze gate and the days when she isn’t there. Now that I have her unique id, I can track her travels all over the place. I can find out which station she get off at and if she travels at night. I can even see if when she travels at night if there are any other scans at the same time or if she is normally by herself. That’s not exactly the type of information that you’d want the world to easily find out about you.

    As AOL found out, merely replacing names with an id isn’t enough to prevent usage data from being connected with an individual.

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